aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Naming Names - the Importance of Titles

It's always tricky choosing a book title. I've been lucky in that nearly all of my titles have been accepted. First came Circles of Confusion, named after the term used for out-of-focus highlights in photographs. Vermeer's paintings show evidence of circles of confusion, which is one reason why people think he used a camera obscura. When I came across the term while doing my research (none on the Internet - how old fashioned! This was in 1996) I thought it was the perfect title. Everyone agreed. And the nice thing about it was that future books could also have shapes in the title. We can't all do A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, but we try.

Next came Square in the Face. For a while, Marketing at HarperCollins thought it should be "Be There or Be Square" or "Death Squared," but I prevailed. My editor gave me a child's shape book for Christmas.

Then came Heart-Shaped Box. No one at Harper seemed familiar with Nirvana, so they didn't quibble. Learning to Fly and Buried Diamonds (were both accepted by St. Martins. Buried was the last in the series. I always thought if I got to Terror in the Tetrahedron, it was time to quit.

Then I wrote Point & Shoot. It started with a digital camera and ended with a Taser. I even have a cover illustration with Point & Shoot on it. Only at the last minute Marketing decided that school libraries might not buy it because it sounded like gun violence. They suggested Panic at Peaceful Cove. I thought it sounded like a dreadful Nancy Drew, or What Happened at the Nursing Home the Day Someone Saw a Spider. We had one day to come up with an alternate title. My agent, my agent's husband, and I gave them a list of about 30 names. They chose Shock Point. I was given one page to work the term Shock Point in.

I'm still holding out for Fire, Kiss, Electric Chair for the new book. We'll see what Marketing has to say.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to titles. Someone I knew slightly sold a book called Slut - it came out as Easy. Might have been a school library factor in that one, too.

Unusual spellings might mean that people can't find it in the bookstore or library. I know of someone who wrote a book called Feint of Art about an art forger. Clever title, but people gave up after not finding it under "faint."

My kid is reading a YA called Island. She wanted the next book. Didn't remember the author. I finally found Gary Paulsen's Island. But that wasn't it. It was Gordon Korman's (both men are practially book factories!). But the simplicity of a one-word title made it difficult to find when so many other books were called the same thing.

A good title is important. A great title can actual sell a book.

Again, as in everything else, there is no magic "great title" factory you can turn on.

Do you have any title stories? Is there a title you particularly like?

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